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The Puerto Ricans at Carlisle Indian School 

Sonia M. Rosa 

In the last two years of the nineteenth century and opening years of the twentieth, 
victorious in the Spanish American War, the U.S. government approved a series of grants 
and actions aimed at "Americanizing" the residents of their newest possession, Puerto 
Rico. In the process, at least 60 Puerto Rican children were sent to be re-educated at the 
Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where the motto was, "Kill the Indian, save the man." 
Founded in 1878 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, the purpose of the Carlisle School was 
to create a new mainstream identity for Indians, to change them into something 
"acceptable" for the society of the times. 

It all began after the Indian Wars, when Captain Pratt was put in charge of a group of 
Indian prisoners who had been virtually exiled to Florida. There, Pratt engaged in reform 
practices still followed today in our prison system. He made certain that the Indians at Ft. 
Marion lived regimented lives-they had to work, learn to read and write in English, learn 
a trade, follow a strict military discipline, and even wear uniforms. After several years, 
and by an act of Congress, the Indian prisoners of war were pardoned. But some of them 
had no place to go and decided to stay with Pratt. Pratt developed a plan to "better" them 
and other Indians. [1] 

First Pratt took his group of ex-convicts to Hampton Institute in Virginia, an institution 
for the children of ex-slaves. After intense lobbying, Pratt convinced the U.S. government 
to give him the run-down facilities of Carlisle Barracks, located in Carlisle, PA. Congress 
funded his project. The money allocated for it came from the "civilization fund." While 
preparing the school, Pratt simultaneously engaged in a strong recruitment effort. His 
candidates for the Indian School were the elite children of the conquered tribes. He 
traveled to talk in person to chiefs. He held long meetings to convince them that the 
survival of their tribes lay in the ability of a new generation to learn the American way. 
He stressed the need to learn to read and write English in order to maintain truthful 
communication with the white man. His strategy was old as humanity, where the 
conqueror takes the children of the conquered, educates the new generation, and creates 
future leaders loyal to the new government. [2] 

Several important U.S. leaders were convinced by Pratt, as well as Indian leaders, and he 
returned to his new school with his precious cargo of Indian royalty. The school was a 
work in progress, and Pratt pushed on with his project, even though the youngsters under 
his care suffered. [3] 

Everyday life at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School was totally regimented. A strict 
schedule was followed. The newly arrived youngsters were forbidden to speak their 
native languages, and their physical appearance was transformed the moment they 
stepped into the school. All Indian regalia was discarded and late nineteenth century attire 

was handed to them to put on. The boys' long hair was cut short and in some cases the 
girls' long hair was also cut. The children were taught to read and write English, were 
motivated to join a Protestant Christian denomination, and were given vocational training 
in such areas as farming, baking, printing, shoemaking, etc. [4] 

The students' formal education was completed with an "outing" system. The students 
were sent out to live with local families for several months of the year. The stated 
purpose was to teach them to live and emulate the American life, but many of them were 
treated as servants and given no positive education-just shame came from the experience. 
It is important to mention, however, that some of the students were well treated and lived 
as members of the local family. [5] 

The Spanish American War 

By the end of the Indian Wars, the U.S. government had its eyes on the Caribbean. The 
sinking of the Maine, an event that is still a mystery to this date, unleashed what the U.S. 
leaders had wanted for a long time, an excuse to fight the Spaniards and expand into the 
Caribbean. Teddy Roosevelt called the Spanish American War "a splendid little war." 
Cuba and Puerto Rico were conquered in record time (although the Philippines was a 
different story). Victorious Americans came to the Caribbean, mostly for strategic, 
military, and economic reasons. Some of them came filled with prejudice about the 
people who inhabited the islands. The very name given to the Antilles-West Indies- 
conjured up images of cartoonish Indian "coolie" characters. The Americans found 
Puerto Rico impoverished because the Spanish Crown had abandoned it and because 
there was no middle class. Poor Puerto Ricans lived in thatched roof houses, although the 
upper classes lived in comfortable abundance (see Figure 1). [6] 

Figure 1 

V 7~ - *f- 





5-**- > 


Poor "barrio" in Aguadilla Puerto Rico circa 1899. Poverty was interpreted as inferiority 

by the U.S. invading forces. 

Source: 1 .htm 

Even educated blacks in the U.S. thought that the inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands 
were inferior. Booker T. Washington stated his interest in educating the Cubans and 
Puerto Ricans and, after the fact, mentioned the "elevating" benefits of industrial 
education in a letter published in 1900: 

In addition to the problem of educating eight million negroes in 
our Southern States and in grafting them into American 
citizenship, we now have the additional responsibility, either 
directly or indirectly, of educating and elevating about eight 
hundred thousand others of African descent in Cuba and Porto 
Rico, to say nothing of the white people of these islands, many of 
whom are in a condition about as deplorable as that of the 
negroes. We have, however, one advantage in approaching the 
question of the education of our new neighbors. The experience 
that we have passed through in the Southern States during the last 
thirty years in the education of my race, whose history and needs 
are not very different from the history and needs of the Cubans and 
Porto Ricans, will prove most valuable in elevating the blacks of 
the West Indian Islands. To tell what has already been 
accomplished in the South under most difficult circumstances is to 
tell what may be done in Cuba and Porto Rico. [7]- 

The expansion of the United States grew after the SpanishAmerican War, to the dismay 
of many citizens who strongly criticized the government, as we can see in the editorial 
cartoons of the times. It was at this historical juncture that the destinies of the African 
Americans, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans collided. [8] 

The Amigos 

A small group of men were the architects of the idea to send Puerto Rican children to the 
Carlisle Indian Industrial School, an almost forgotten chapter of Puerto Rican history and 
colonialism. Richard Henry Pratt, John Eaton, and Nelson Miles knew each other well. 
They had served in the U.S. Army and all rose through the ranks by using a mixture of 
intelligence, leadership, and effort. They had in common their service in the Civil War 
and Indian Wars, and were in charge of Indian scout units as well as Buffalo Soldier 

Pratt convinced leaders of the U.S. government of the worthiness of his social experiment 
with the children of Indian chiefs. [9] 

Meanwhile Eaton, who was a star, rapidly rose through the government ranks and went 
from being Director of the Freedman and Slaves Bureau, to Director of Indian Affairs, 
and then was called upon to organize a new Bureau of Education. The life of Miles, who 
was once described as a "brave peacock," was full of controversy, basically because he 
was loud and opinionated, and because he betrayed his Indian scouts. But he was 
influential. After the Spanish American War, Miles invited Eaton to be the first Secretary 
of Education of Puerto Rico. Eaton's stay in Puerto Rico was short, but his radical 
changes to the education system in Puerto Rico still remain today. [10] 

Eaton was the moving intellectual force behind the plan to Americanize the Puerto 
Ricans using an off-shoot of Pratt's Carlisle Plan that was already in place for the 
Indians. He was a close personal friend of Richard H. Pratt; his frequent visits to Carlisle 
Indian School are well documented in the school's newspaper, The Indian Helper. As 
first Secretary of Education of Puerto Rico, the Carlisle Scholarship Program was Eaton's 
brainchild. He was unable to put it into full motion, however, because of serious health 
problems that forced him to leave the island very soon after his arrival. His successor, Dr. 
Martin Grove Brumbaugh (1901), was the one who really implemented the program. [11] 

Brumbaugh knew where he was sending the Puerto Rican youngsters because he was a 
native of Pennsylvania and later became governor of that state. Brumbaugh used the same 
proven program developed by Pratt and approached the elite families of Puerto Rico-the 
majority of the youngsters sent to Carlisle were the children of the upper class families of 
Puerto Rico, the children of the leaders, the children of the caciques. Brumbaugh used a 
one-on-one personal approach, with arguments about the advantages of educating their 
kids or losing them due to ignorance of the new system, to convince the landowners and 

professionals of Puerto Rico to send their children to participate in the scholarship 
program at the Carlisle School. [12] 

The philosophy behind sending the children of elite Puerto Ricans to Carlisle School was 
the same one that Pratt stated in 1882: "...the school serves a double purpose-first as an 
educating influence on those who are here and second as an educating and controlling 
influence."- These men-Pratt, Eaton, Miles, and Brumbaugh-joined forces and put 
together a plan to "civilize" the Puerto Ricans. [13] 

The Puerto Rican Youngsters at Carlisle IndianSchool 

The story of these youngsters is not told in history books and until recently only a handful 
of people knew about the so-called "Porto Rican Indians." While researching for my 
Master's degree thesis, I stumbled onto this almost forgotten chapter of Puerto Rican 
History. First Gina Rosario mentioned the story to me and then she steered me in the 
direction of Jorge Estevez (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian), who 
generously shared with me his knowledge and some of his research. The facts where 
there-a group of sixty plus Puerto Rican youngsters were sent to the city of Carlisle, 
Pennsylvania, to an Indian industrial boarding school-but the picture was not very clear 
(see Figure 2). [14] 

Figure 2 

Questions kept recurring while reading about the school's history and the Puerto Rican 
youngsters who were sent there. These questions included: 

1. Who were these Puerto Rican youngsters? 

2. Who sent them to Carlisle? 

3. Who paid for their education? 

4. Why Carlisle? 

5. Were these youngsters Taino Indians? 

6. What kind of lives did they have after leaving Carlisle? [15] 

As I sought the answers to these questions, a series of human stories began to unfold. 
Several answers were to be found within the records kept at the National Archives 
(NARA, folio 75). Carlisle itself also has many records with enlightening information 
about those Puerto Rican students including, in many cases, long letters answering 
surveys sent by the school to inform the superintendent of Carlisle about their lives after 
leaving the institution. Another part of the story came from three articles published in the 
U.S. and Puerto Rican press, and from the school's newspaper. [16] 

Not long after their arrival at Carlisle, the parents of the students who had been selected 
to go there began receiving letters from their children about the bad conditions at the 

school, to the parents' great surprise. Several of those parents approached the well known 
leader and politician Luis Munoz Rivera: [17] 

One of the most famous men in the political history of Puerto Rico, 
Luis Munoz Rivera [see Figure 3] devoted his life to the struggle 
for the political autonomy of Puerto Rico. In 1901, while living in 
New York, Munoz Rivera established the Puerto Rican Herald, a 
bilingual newspaper. Munoz Rivera returned to Puerto Rico in 
1904 and became one of the founders of the Unionist Party. In 
1906 he was elected to the House of Delegates as a Unionist and 
was twice reelected, serving until 1910, when he was elected 
Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives. [18]'- 

Figure 3 

Luis Munoz-Rivera was a well known Puerto Rican political figure. Several 
parents contacted him with complaints about Carlisle Indian School, after 
reading the complaints he went personally to inspect the school. His 
findings were published in the New York Newpaper The Puerto Rican Herald in 
1901. Source: 

Munoz Rivera went to visit the Carlisle Indian Industrial School to find out for himself 
and the concerned parents what the conditions there were like. In the Puerto Rican 
Herald, he wrote about his visit in August 1901 :[19] 

The letters of diverse students and their parents, from several 
places of the island, gave me a firm impression that the education 
was very bad and the food was detestable at the Indian School. 
Since I went there without any other purpose than rectifying or 
verifying those impressions, I asked each student individually 
about their personal experiences. All agreed with both extremes: 
" we eat bad and we are not well. " [20]- 

Apparently there had been a general perception among the Puerto Rican parents that they 
were sending their children to the school to receive a higher education. Munoz Rivera 
addressed that lie. He wrote [21]: 

Those who thought that their sons and daughters would become 
doctors, lawyers or architects were deceived. Some say that those 
careers were available to them in Puerto Rico. I resist admitting 
that Mr. Brumbaugh, whom I hold as an intelligent educator and 
serious person, had promised things that in reality could not be 
true. If those offers were to be confirmed, then a grave charge 
would result against the department of education. [22]- 

Munoz Rivera offered to take the kids back home, but the youngsters took a vote and 
decided to stay. One might infer that they wanted to return to Puerto Rico triumphant. 
Two revealing documents are articles written by Angela Rivera-Tudo and Dr. Juan Jose 
Osuna, two Puerto Ricans who, as youths, were students sent to Carlisle. Rivera-Tudo's 
article is titled "The Puerto Rican Indians." Here are some excerpts from what, at first 
sight, appears to be a simple invitation to a high school reunion [23]: 

Only those of us who went and experienced the misfortunes of this 
kind of experience in adolescence, since most of us had graduated 
from eighth grade as did others soon after their arrival in that land 
[the United States], I repeat, only we can attest to the suffering. 
[24 f- 

Rivera-Tudo explains in detail her anguish and goes on to defend the worthiness of the 
Puerto Rican students sent to Carlisle: [25] 

/ have always been an independent spirit. For me, the situation 
amounted to an unforgivable injustice, abusive treatment by our 
[U.S.] "masters, " directed to denigrating Puerto Ricans further, 
by their choosing the only college they had for educating and 
civilizing the savage Redskin Indians for also educating and 
"civilizing " the wretched Puerto Ricans. And, to make matters 
worse, those of us who were there represented the best that Puerto 
Rico had. Tangible proof of this is that in spite of these unpleasant 
and foreboding beginnings, all or most of us have made positive 
contributions to our Motherland and have not shown any rancor 
toward Americans since not all of them are equally guilty of the 
harm one of them did to us. [26]- 

Dr. Juan Jose Osuna, a leading scholar and Puerto Rican educator, wrote about his 
misfortunes in Carlisle in the scholarly journal Summer School Review in 1932. Probably 
he wrote it after the reunion at Angela Rivera-Tudo's house. His words paint a detailed 
picture of how he manipulated the outing system to stay out of Carlisle: [27] 

/ worked therefor the summer and went to school during the 
academic year of 1901-1902. Of the rest of my companions, some 
stayed like myself to work and study; some ran away and returned 
to Puerto Rico; and the parents of the well to do either sent for 
their children or transferred them to other schools. We were a very 
disappointed lot. I had decided to become a lawyer, but I did not 
see that in this school I would ever get nearer my goal. [28]- 

It is sad and poignant to read his description of how he was treated [29]: 

As I was different from the Indians and also somewhat different 
from the Americans, I became a curiosity. On Sunday afternoons, 
people from all over that section of the country that came 
purposely to see Miss Mira's new boy visited the place. They had 
heard that he was not an Indian, that he had come from Puerto 
Rico; and they wanted to see what Puerto Ricans looked like. [30]- 

Osuna closes his article by telling us about his last days as a Carlisle alumnus: [31] 

In the spring of 1905, I received a letter reminding me that I was 
still a Carlisle student, but that the authorities felt that I was 
advanced enough to graduate from the institution and sever my 
relationship with the Federal Government. ...I went to Carlisle, 
attended commencement; ... I received a diploma of the Carlisle 
Indian Industrial School. I graduated with the class of 1905; I am 
an alumnus of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. I am an 
Indian in spite of myself. [32]— 

These newspaper articles show one side of Carlisle, but the documents found at NARA 
show another perspective. The first set of documents, created when the students first 
arrived at the school, was the Descriptive and Historical Record of the Students (see 
Figure 4). These consisted of cards that included such data as: [33] 


2) Parents name 

3) Nation 

4) Blood (Quantum) 

5) Age at arrival 

6) Date of arrival 

7) Date of departure 

8) Reason for departure 

9) Height 

10) Weight 

Figure 4 








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Using the information provided on the individual student records and some of the letters 
written by the students, I created a database that provides a partially detailed picture of 
who these youngsters were. Some of the interesting facts include: [34] 

1 . A group of at least sixty "boricuas" were sent to Carlisle Indian School. (Probably 
the group reached one hundred.) 

2. Under the "tribe" category, the word "Porto Rican" was written. 

3. The first Puerto Rican arrived in 1899. 

4. The Puerto Ricans who went to Carlisle were from the following municipalities: 
San Juan (11), Ponce (6), Mayaguez (3), Yauco (2), and Fajardo (2). There were 
also one each from the following cities and towns: Guayama, Utuado, Cabo Rojo, 
Hatillo, Bayamon, Caguas, Arecibo, Juncos, Lajas, Quebradillas, Aguadilla, 
Ciales, Barceloneta, Humacao, Juana Diaz, Barranquitas, Ensenada, Yauco. If you 
follow the names of the municipalities and place them on a map of Puerto Rico, 
you can see the route of old Puerto Rico Road Number Two or the Military Road. 
Also you can follow the route of the train that ran parallel to that road (see map at 

5. At least five of the young Puerto Ricans ran away: Santiago Montano, Castulo 
Rodriguez, Luis Sanchez, Antonio Pagan, and Rafael Gaudier. 

6. Parents requested the return of eleven students. 

7. The youngest Puerto Rican sent to Carlisle was twelve years old. Her name was 
Olimpia Morales. The average age of the kids sent was 15.33 years old. 

8. Some of the kids were orphans or had only one parent. 

9. In my records, I have the names of 17 of the girls and 35 of the boys. 

10. There seems to be confusion in the use of surnames, probably because of the 
Americans' lack of understanding of the Hispanic tradition of using both 

11. The students arrived in small groups. A group of eleven youngsters from Puerto 
Rico arrived at Carlisle Indian School on May 2, 1901. The group was made up of 
ten boys and one girl. On May 21, 1901, another large group of youngsters 
arrived from the island. The group was made up of four boys and eight girls. A 
total of 37 youngsters arrived at Carlisle Indian School during 1901. 

12. Concebida Duchesne was orphaned and thirteen years old at the time she arrived. 
Her record mentions that she was adopted by her patrons. 

13. A group of three (maybe more) of the Puerto Rican Carlisle students joined the 
"Porto Rican Provisional Regiment" and were the first islanders who rose to the 
ranks of officers in the U.S. Army. 

14. Miguel de Jesus, Maria M. Castro, and Felfcita Medina were 18 years old when 
they arrived at Carlisle. 

15. Delores Nieves was classified as a "Negro-Puerto Rican." After her departure, she 
wrote several letters on behalf of an orphaned child. She asked the administration 
to accept the boy at Carlisle. Her request was denied. 

16. Vicente Figueroa stayed in Carlisle and married Louise Taylor. There are several 
letters from him to Carlisle. 

17. J.A.E. Rodriguez's letters to the Carlisle Indian School had the letterhead of the 
San Juan Baseball Grounds. The letterhead describes him as president and 

treasurer of the San Juan Baseball Grounds, making him an important part of 

Puerto Rican baseball history (see letter at 


t- 2. SsariguK, h, L Soto, a. C.PSres, 


Stop Jr 
0. BOX 11; 

-*-<p^ San. Juan, P. a., ^IA&l 1 ^ - l9 ,_ 

&r. ^a» friechiaA, 

» » ■ 

SHpt. Carlisle Indian School, 

Carlisle, Senna. 

U& dear Mr. Friedman: 
i ■ 

Souse daya ago there cam© to my office 1 a 

young wan "by the n&iae of Iftie C. Varela to a^.ae 

contain .guegtioas regarding the School,, 1 tali 

Ma Trltat the Bcbool was &n£ .also talA MarwJiat r^y 

time in said ocfcool aid for ns&* At hi a r&quetat I 
i . > . ,** 

an writing this to a&h you if it would, he " ^o sell) la to' 
admit Mm there flree of asy charge-, ffijila'i Mto not 
known Ma for snch a .long, tine .1 am told by per eons 
closely associated with HAtn that he 1 is a fine boy.. 

I note 'front yoror last catalogue tnut you have -me 
as employed with, tho railroad company. I; wish to Etate- 
tfcat for the laa"& : "fOBr years I haTe not' teen qoimecred 

i 1 " 

with ssdil -boapany hut hare o&an.einplcyed hy the Insular 
GoTentimant of JForto 3ico in the Offioe of the Auditor 
as an SzjiGrt Aodormtant 'iTiiih a compensation of yfijOQQ.OQ 
jer annum -and a ^er diem of $2 ,50 n-hert ozl; the road. 


With, heat r Beards to old fr lands at the I ear old 
place and the host of success for Carlis-la.. ? ■. S-cR?* 

» ■ 



18. There is a letter that Providencia Martinez wrote to Carlisle mentioning how 
much her father suffered when he found out she was attending an Indian School. 

19. Matilde Gamier wrote about the improvements in the educational system in 
Puerto Rico. She wrote in a letter dated 1911: "Porto Rico has improved a great 
deal since the Americans came up here." 

20. The letters written by the Puerto Ricans are very positive, thankful letters. 

21. The majority of the kids belonged to elite families. 

22. Some of the families still had close ties to Spain. [35] 

The descendants of the Puerto Ricans at Carlisle 

The fragmented picture painted by the letters and documents did not shed enough light on 
the students and their lives, so I started research on genealogies. I searched the Ellis 
Island records online, the Mormon records and every Puerto Rican genealogy site that I 
could access. I found scattered information. [36] 

The first living relatives of the Carlisle Student I was able to find were the family of 
Elvira Velez. Laura Irrizary answered my e-mail and painted a full picture of the Velez 
Family. Francisco Velez, Elvira's father, was a landowner of a big sugar-cane plantation. 
He was rich and was elected major of Lajas, a town located in the southwest coast of PR, 
after the U.S. invasion. Besides Elvira, he also had two sons, whom he sent to study 
medicine in the U.S. at Georgetown University. After her return to Puerto Rico, Elvira 
married Gustavo Grana, and together they owned a pharmacy. One of her grandchildren 
has a genealogical website were he has posted her picture.— I held a very interesting 
conversation with her only surviving child, retired engineer Gustavo Grana. Elvira told 
her family that she went to high school in PA. Specifically, she mentioned Dickinson 
Prep School, but never mentioned Carlisle Indian School. [37] 

Concebida Duchesne came from a very musically talented family. Her father was a 
known musician during Spanish rule and her brother Rafael Duchesne-Mondrfguez was 
one of the great composers of la danza puertorriquena. Concebida' s record at Carlisle 
mentions that she was adopted by her patrons. One of the surveys the school sent was 
answered by her patron, stating that she was studying to be a teacher and planning to 
return to Puerto Rico. She studied at Bloomsburg College, now Bloomsburg University. 
Her great grandnephew, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Doctor Juan 
Duchesne, wrote: [38] 

My father tells me that he knew of an "aunt Conci" that was a teacher in the U.S. He 
never saw her. He only remembers that his father Rafael (aunt Conci's brother) would 
write to her often. Her letters would always be written in English. She would tell Rafael 
that "she had been converted into an American" and that she could no longer speak in 
Spanish nor live in Puerto Rico. That is what my father remembers. He referred me to my 

Uncle Francisco whom I contacted immediately on the phone. Francisco, who is older 
than my father, remembers something more. He knows that Concebida ('titi Conci") 
returned to Puerto Rico in the 20 's with another sister named Francisca. Both were 
English teachers. They taught in the countryside of San Lorenzo, where they traveled on 
mule to school. Not long afterwards, both returned to the mainland, maybe before 1930. 
Paquita relocated to Boston and Concebida went to Poughkeepsie, NY. Concebida never 
again returned to Puerto Rico. She married a radio announcer by the name of Joe Saldana 
and she had a son. Both my uncle and father have a blind spot regarding Concebida' s 
youth and education. She only would say that she was in a special place where they 

i o 

"converted her into an American." [39]— 

Dr. Juan Duchesne writes about Concebida: 

I asked if they knew of her schooling and they said they don't have any idea. That topic 
was never spoken of in the family. When she arrived at the island to work as a teacher, 
they remember that it was somewhat shocking that she was a fervent Protestant, since 
they only knew Catholicism. My father says that it was said in the family hat she was of a 
very dark skin, and that it made her stand out from the rest of her siblings. [40]^ 

Enrique Urrutia went to Carlisle even though his family had close ties to the Spanish 
Crown. His great aunt was the wife of Don Juan Daban y Busterino, and her name was 
Dona Maria Catalina de Urrutia y Montoya of Habana, Cuba. Don Juan Daban was: 

The Inspector de las Tropas in Cuba when he was charged to take over as Gobernador 
and Capitan Gen. of Puerto Rico in 1783. He came to the island with his wife, Dona 
Maria Catalina de Urrutia y Montoya Spain.— 

Peter Reilly, grandnephew of Urrutia, wrote: "The family has a rich military history and, 
in fact, was prominent in governing and protecting much ofSpain's lands in the New 
World from the 17th century up to the Spanish-American War".— Jorge Urrutia, another 
nephew, wrote: "I met Tia Pura and Tfo Enrique in the late 1950's in their plush San 
Patricio home before they left the island to live in the Washington D.C. area." [41] 


Enrique Urrutia joined the Puerto Rico Provisional Regiment after leaving Carlisle. He 
was one of the first group of Puerto Rican officers in the U.S. Army and retired as a 
colonel after serving in both World Wars (see Figure 7). His son and grandson followed 
in his footsteps as officers of the U.S. Army. Enrique is buried in Arlington National 
Cemetery. I was able to trace the family of Enrique Urrutia, who never told his family 
that he went to Carlisle Indian Industrial School. [42] 

Figure 7 

First Lieu tenant ^ferltm* Urratia , U.S. A, * OarlialB 
hoy from p trtt 11M, 

Eariqtw lef* Garlisle in X#ae after a term of fonr 
ywi said returned to Mb home la 9aa ft**, Perto Rial, H» 
worked at his trade aa printer for two yeara at JntJlOdollars 
a week aasieting in the aupperta a* hi a aafrbar and slater, 
During thie tine he attended nlgfet &ehiel* 

Ha than tool: t e ^lril Sec**** e^esinatittn and reosiyed 
an anpointtnont ne clerk in Pay t*$ftr*j>e*4 it*? *are *t 
oerattty rlellara per mantfe* fhe next year he wa» wewotefl 
to eighty p r neath and. the fallowing rear to ninety per 
south. srhlle holdiar thia poottioa h« oonttan^a hie edaaa- 
tien and was prepared for o^aataatian far the Be|«le? Ar»y 
hj AntaniB 3*4ritnei, a Cnrllele graduate, 

% than took the examination t»*r anointment to the 
Rogvlar *Tigp and in XtIO with three ether Parte Riaana 
aeeolTed oaraiinalena aa Seeend sieateaanta in the Regular 
Amy. He paased nmafber one uton$ twenty -four e&ndl&at**. 
He has serred In the Regain* Jbrwy aiaaa that tiae and haa 
heen promoted to ho Flrvl Stent en&nt. 

sari«na, yon ha+o anle aoaa* Carlisle it proud of itB 
Segular Army Off io ere* 

There are three Nin families in Puerto Rico. All of them are very rich, with properties and 
intellectual success (lawyers, architects, etc.). Belen Nin, after going to Carlisle, spent 
several years in St. Mary's Seminary in PA. We don't know if she joined a religious 
order or was simply getting in touch with her Catholic roots after the Carlisle experience. 
Her family remembers her return to Puerto Rico and her shy demeanor. [43] 

Juan Jose Osuna went to Carlisle and, as mentioned, manipulated the system to stay out 
of the Indian School. Osuna, a brilliant scholar, moved around until he was able to obtain 
his doctor's degree in Education. He returned to Puerto Rico, worked in the University of 
Puerto Rico, and was one of the co-founders of the University Editorial House, Editorial 
Universitaria. His highly acclaimed book, A History of Education in Puerto Rico, is a 
well researched, scholarly study of several hundred years of education on the island. 
There's even a high school in Caguas, Puerto Rico, named after him. [44] 

Not all the Carlisle Puerto Rican stories had a happy ending. One of those is Pedro 
Enrique Musignac's story. The Musignac family owned the Salinas salt processing plant 
in Cabo Rojo, located in the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico. Nelliemar Musignac 
wrote: "He, or maybe a son with his same name, lost the Salinas one night while drinking 
and gambling." [45]- 


After several years of researching the presence of a group of Puerto Ricans at Carlisle 
Indian School, I found the answers to my most compelling questions: Why were they sent 
to Carlisle? Who sent them? [46] 

They were sent to Carlisle as part of a very structured and open program to Americanize 
the Puerto Ricans following the Spanish American War. Council Bill 12, enacted in 1901, 
the Puerto Rican Legislature Bill 21 (1901), and later on House Bill 35, provided for 
scholarship money for twenty men and women to study at technical industrial schools in 
the U.S. Just like Pratt did with the Indians, visiting their leaders and convincing them of 
the worthiness of sending them to Carlisle, Secretary of Education Dr. Martin 
Brumbaugh convinced leaders of the Puerto Ricans to send their kids not only to Carlisle 
Indian School but also to Tuskegee and Hampton, schools created to educate the ex- 
slaves, now traditional African American Schools. Youngsters from Cuba were sent to 
Hampton and Tuskegee, too. The Indians, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans were 
forcibly mainstreamed and education was used as a principle tool on the island of Puerto 
Rico as well as on the mainland: North American teachers arrived at the island with the 
sole purpose of teaching in English. It was the intent not only to substitute the language 
but also change the value system and 'Americanize' the Puerto Ricans through the 
educational process. [47]— 

Edwin Grant Dexter, Commissioner of Education of Puerto Rico, wrote in his annual 
report: "In accordance to sections 68 to 77 of the school law of Puerto Rico a number of 
young men are being maintained in various schools and colleges in the United States at 
the expense of the government of Puerto Rico." [48]— 

Jose-Manuel Navarro poignantly calls the process the same thing that he titled his book, 
Creating Tropical Yankees. Navarro's book presents in detail the history of education in 
Puerto Rico and how the schools were used openly for the Americanization of the 
masses. The U.S. government had no qualms, like many other conquerors have done after 
their conquest; in creating a cadre of acculturated, Americanized, and assimilated 
youngsters. Those youngsters who were educated in the U.S., and their descendants after 
them, were very successful after returning to Puerto Rico, and still surnames like Rexach, 
Padin, Duchesne, Segui, Urrutia, Nin, Musignac, Orriola, Pinero, and Seijo are part of the 
intellectual, business, and political scene of the island. [49] 

Samuel McCune Lindsay, Secretary of Education for Puerto Rico (1902), made a very 
poignant and, I believe, accurate statement in his annual report : "Colonization carried 
forward by the armies of war is vastly more costly than that carried forward by the armies 
of peace, whose outpost and garrisons are the public schools." [50]^- 

An important question remains: Were those kids who were sent to the Carlisle Industrial 
Indian School Taino Indians? I believe that there is no right answer to that question. The 
Tamos had a sad yet surprising history. When the Spaniards came to the lands they 
inhabited in the Caribbean, the Tamos were expecting them, warned by a prophecy that 
told them they were going to receive the visit of white/dressed people who would kill 
them. The theory of the total extinction of the Tamos was repeated generation after 

generation like a gospel in the Antilles, yet the truth is that the Tamos made themselves 
"invisible" to survive in the middle of the oppressive forces of the conquistadors. The 
latest DNA research performed by Dr. Juan Carlos Martinez-Cruzado proves the 
existence of that invisible nation among the Puerto Ricans today. In scientific testing that 
has been conducted during the last three years across the island, Taino mitochondrial 
DNA is being found in an astonishing percentage of the Puerto Rican people. [51] 

On the other hand, we have genealogy. Right now the genealogy of the Puerto Ricans 
whom I have been able to trace points to Spain. We need to remember that the history of 
the Tamos is oral and that genealogy is a document-filled endeavor. To get a direct, exact 
and correct answer as to whether or not those students who were sent to the Carlisle 
Industrial Indian School were Taino Indians, we may need to use more technology. DNA 
technology that can read the complete spectrum of the hereditary genes probably will 
solve the riddle in the near future, when it is more easily available and more affordable. 

The issue here should not be the Indian-ness of thePuerto Ricans who were sent to 
Carlisle, but the fact that they were treated like the Indians. They were classified as 
inferiors and not as the equals of other American students. [53] 

The legacy of Carlisle is filled with contradictions. Some students spoke of the horrors 
and the prison-like atmosphere of Carlisle, while others called it home and mentioned the 
school with fondness and warmth. Which were sincere? Were some suffering from a type 
of brainwashing or from the Stockholm Syndrome? Were they grateful for their 
professional successes? Mitchell Bush, president of the American Indian Society, said 
about the Indian school system: [54] 

I've seen some of the more positive side. I think one thing it did for us is teach us 
English... we can all understand and communicate with you. [55] — 

I would like to conclude by mentioning the text of the marker that was newly inaugurated 
on September 1, 2003, in front of the Carlisle Barracks Cemetery (see Figure 8 a,b, and 
c): [56] 

This school was the model for a nationwide system of boarding schools intended to 
assimilate American Indians into mainstream culture. Over 10,000 indigenous children 
attended the school between 1879-1918. Despite idealistic beginnings, the school left a 
mixed and lasting legacy, creating opportunity for some students and conflicted identities 
for others. In this cemetery are 186 graves of students who died while at Carlisle. [57]— 

None of the students buried in the Carlisle Barracks Cemetery are Puerto Ricans. They 
were the lucky ones. They were able to return home, probably with opportunity in one 
hand and conflicted identities in the other. I strongly believe that the majority of the 
Puerto Rican kids, despite the pain, rose from the ashes stronger, and took the education 
given at Carlisle and used it constructively to create a new and better life for themselves 

and their families. The Puerto Ricans at Carlisle Indian School left a legacy of resilience 
and strength. [58] 

Figure 8 (a) 

Figure 8 (c) 



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■ml 1911. Despite idetliiLlc b=fl 
the Mhool left ■ mixed ind JiHihfl 
|mkt, crciiliM oftpoftttnily for iol»e 
rtidMfi and &nnktBd idcntHiM for 

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- Washington, Booker T. "Signs of progress among the negroes." 1900: 472-478. 

-Pratt, Richard Henry. Pratt papers. Beinecke Library, Yale University. 

-Munoz Rivera, Luis. Biography. <>. 

-Munoz Rivera, Luis. "Una visita al Indian School," Revista de genealogfa 
puertorriquena. 1:2, 2000. 


-Rivera-Tudo, Angela. (Translation by Vilma Irrizary) "The Puerto Rican Indians." La 
Correspondencia de Puerto Rico. January 3, 1931: 4. 

—Ibid. The article came to my hands thru the generous help of Dr. Vilma Irrizary. 

Osuna, Juan Jose. "An Indian in Spite of Myself," Summer School Review, Vol. X, No. 
5, 1932. 

L Ibid. 

^ Ibid. 

— Familia Grana. Mojica Website, 

— Duchesne, Dr. Juan Dr. Personal E-mail to author. 


— Daban Family website. 

— Reilly, Peter. Personal E-mail to autor. 

— Urrutia, Jorge. Personal E-mail to autor. 

— Musignac, Neeliemar. Personal E-mail to autor. 

— Silvestrini Blanca, et al. Historia de Puerto Rico. Ediciones Cultural Panamericana, 
1992: 386. 

—Report of the Governor of Puerto Rico, 1909. NARA. 

11 Ibid. 

^-Bush, Mitchell. Video, Carlisle Cemetery Marker Ceremony. September 1, 2003. 

1 1 

""-Marker in front of Carlisle Indian School Cemetery. Carlisle, PA. 


Sonia Migdalia Rosa holds a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University 
of Puerto Rico at Mayagiiez with a specialty in Puerto Rican Literature. Her dissertation 
was titled: Acercamiento a los mitos y leyendas tainos en Puerto Rico y el Caribe. 
(Approaching Taino myths and legends in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean). Her book 
titled Los Mitos Tainos: Espejo de los mitos de America, (The Taino Myths" Mirror of 
the American myths) will be available soon. Sonia resides in northern Virginia where she 
greatly enjoys being an educator, writer, and independent researcher. 

First draft submitted: 30 October 2003 
Revised version: 17 November 2003 
Published: 28 December 2003 


Please cite this article as follows, including paragraph numbers if necessary: 

Rosa, Sonia M. (2003). The Puerto Ricans at Carlisle Indian School. [58 paragraphs] 
KACIKE: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology [On-line 
lournal]. Available at: [Date of access: 
Day, Month, Year]. 

© 2003. Sonia M. Rosa, KACIKE. All photographs provided by courtesy of Sonia M. 
Rosa, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.